Norman Whiteside on UTD Podcast

UTD Podcast: Whiteside recalls Sir Alex's first day

Norman Whiteside has revealed the message Sir Alex Ferguson delivered to Manchester United’s players on his first day in the job, back in November 1986.

In the latest episode of UTD Podcast, the 1980s legend was taken back to when Ron Atkinson made way for the man who would become the most successful manager in the club’s history.

And the way Sir Alex made his authority clear from the start is something that the Northern Irishman recalls clearly and respects, even if he found himself eventually being moved on by Ferguson.

“I remember, I was injured again,” Whiteside told us.

“There was only two or three of us who went to Big Ron’s leaving do at his house in Rochdale. Strach [Gordon Strachan], me, Paul [McGrath] and Robbo [Bryan Robson] were there. We had a good night. A very good night.

“We came in the next morning at the gymnasium at the Cliff and Alex walks down the stairs. He says ‘I don’t care who you are in this line-up here. I’m the new manager of Manchester United, my rules are my rules. I am the boss of this club now.’

“He said it just like that. He actually mentioned me. He said ‘I don’t care if you’re Whiteside, Robson or McGrath. I am the boss from here on in.’

“Gordon [who played under Ferguson at Aberdeen] gave us a bit of a heads-up, [saying] he’s a bit strict. You knew what you were into. New manager, you’ve got to adapt by the rules and get on with it. That was his intro: I’m the boss. The rest was history.”

Whiteside: It’s nice to look backVideo

Atkinson had given Whiteside his break in the United first team, with the Northern Irishman becoming our youngest player since Duncan Edwards when making his debut at the age of 16 in 1982.

The forward, who won two FA Cups with the Reds, went on to make over 200 appearances under Big Ron and remained at Old Trafford for a further three years under his successor, although he was hit by injury problems during that time.

In what is an entertaining and revealing interview, lasting over an hour, Whiteside expands on the contrasts between the two managers and highlights that, despite his 1989 departure, he still gets on with Ferguson.

Manchester United's new manager Alex Ferguson acknowledges the crowd before his first home game in charge at Old Trafford
Alex Ferguson acknowledges the crowd before his first home game in charge at Old Trafford.

“Yeah they were completely different characters. Sir Alex was always more detailed,” Norman adds. “He would have a meeting to tell you when the next meeting was! With Big Ron, you’d turn up and as long as you’re fine at 3pm, you’re on my team sheet.

“It wasn't so much style. Big Ron took me into midfield, which he said was a gem of a move from him but it was really lucky to be honest. But people forget I played 70-odd games under Fergie. I got on really well with him. Right to this day I still get on well with him.”

Whiteside adds that Ferguson initially struggled to bring his forward-thinking ideas – which included deploying Bryan Robson as a deep-lying playmaker, in the style of an Italian libero – to fruition at United.

UTD Podcast: Why Whiteside didn’t fear anyoneVideo

“When I was playing, he was still finding his level.

“I remember coming in at Littleton Road and he pulled everyone in pre-season and he told us what we were going to do. He said we'll put Robson there [at the back], and have two centre-backs and two full-backs.

“He was already light years ahead of Europe [in terms of his tactics]. But we had practice games with the Reserves and local teams like Oldham and Rochdale and it didn’t work. But he had the vision that this is the way the game is going to go.”

You can download the full Norman Whiteside podcast episode on Deezer and all your favourite podcast platforms.

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